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How Grief Changes You


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Grief is a universal experience that touches everyone at some point in life. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a career setback, or the end of a significant relationship, grief manifests in many forms and profoundly affects individuals. Understanding how grief changes you can be a crucial step in navigating this challenging emotional landscape for veterans, healthcare workers, working professionals, and grievers. This blog post explores the multifaceted nature of grief, its long-term impact, and practical strategies for coping and recovery.


Understanding Grief


Grief is often misunderstood as a linear process with clear-cut stages. However, it is far more complex and unique to each person. Traditional models outline stages such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but these are not experienced in any specific order, nor are they universally applicable. Instead, grief can be seen as a wave, sometimes gently rocking you and other times crashing over you with overwhelming force.


The Non-linear Nature of Grief

The idea that grief must follow a strict sequence is a misconception. People may revisit stages multiple times, experience them in a different order, or skip some entirely. This non-linear nature means that “completion” is not a goal; rather, processing and understanding one's feelings are what truly matter.


Diverse Experiences of Grief

How individuals experience grief can vary widely. Some may feel numb and detached, while others are overwhelmed by emotional waves. Cultural, social, and personal factors all play a role in shaping one's grief experience. It's crucial to recognize that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and your feelings are valid no matter how they manifest.


The ACE Study and Long-term Effects of Trauma

One of the greatest misconceptions about grief that obstructs recovery is the belief that "time heals all wounds." The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study highlights that trauma and grief experienced in childhood can have long-lasting effects on adulthood. This underscores that grief doesn't simply fade with time; it needs to be actively processed to prevent it from shaping our belief systems and outlook on life, often subconsciously.


How Grief Changes You


Grief has enduring effects that go beyond the immediate aftermath of a loss. It can shape our mental health, relationships, and overall outlook on life.


Grief changes the way we see the world. The loss, which we can refer to as an activating event, is so painful that it influences our belief system—an almost subconscious set of rules we create to understand how the world should look, feel, and behave so that we can meet our basic needs. We each use these self-made rules as lenses through which we view the world and interpret the meaning of events in our lives. How we understand the meaning of these events triggers our responses—our behaviors—directly influenced by emotional energy.


Grief changes our neurological makeup. The human brain is extraordinarily adaptable, thanks to a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout our lives. This adaptability enables us to learn from experiences, adjust to new circumstances, and recover from injuries. However, it also means that the emotional impact of grief can lead to significant changes in brain function.


Research indicates that frequently accessing learned information strengthens neural pathways, making information faster and easier to retrieve. This is beneficial—unless the learned lesson, which we might call an irrational belief, is inaccurate, painful, and overly rigid. These pathways create what we call neural shortcuts. When we encounter similar thoughts, emotions, sensations, or stimuli as we encountered when we learned that lesson and adopted that irrational belief, the brain quickly reminds us of the painful lesson to prevent its repetition. This process happens through our emotional reactions to life, operating faster than our critical thinking can register.


Grief changes our DNA expression. Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression that do not involve alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. These changes are like switches or markers placed on our DNA that can turn genes on or off, impacting how cells read these genes. While our genetic code provides the instructions for our bodies, epigenetics determines how, when, and where these instructions are carried out. One of the most fascinating aspects of epigenetics is how our experiences—including trauma and grief—can influence these switches.


When we experience profound grief, the emotional turmoil can leave a lasting mark on our genetic expression. Stress hormones released during periods of intense sorrow can modify epigenetic markers, potentially affecting everything from our immune system function to our stress-response mechanisms. This means that the emotional upheaval of grief doesn't just change how we feel in the moment; it can result in long-term biological changes that influence our overall well-being. Understanding the role of epigenetics in our response to grief allows us to appreciate the deep and enduring interplay between our emotions and our biology. Acknowledging this opens the door to more compassionate and supportive ways of helping those in the throes of sorrow.


There is Hope


Grief profoundly impacts our lives, influencing our belief systems, neurological functioning, and even our DNA expression. Adaptive Grief Tapping (AGT)™, available only at Focused Pathways®, is designed to address these changes holistically, providing a pathway to recovery and resilience.


Reshaping Belief Systems

Grief often shakes our core beliefs, leading to feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness. AGT™ helps reshape these belief systems by combining tapping on acupressure points with cognitive reframing techniques. Here’s how it works:


  • Tapping and Cognitive Reframing: By tapping on specific acupressure points while focusing on distressing beliefs or memories, AGT™ helps calm the nervous system. This process reduces the emotional intensity associated with these beliefs, making introducing and accepting new, healthier perspectives easier.


  • Creating Positive Associations: During AGT™ sessions, individuals are guided to replace negative beliefs with positive affirmations and constructive thoughts. This practice gradually helps to rewire the brain, fostering a more optimistic and balanced worldview.


  • Ongoing Support: AGT™ encourages regular practice, reinforcing the new belief systems over time. This continuous reinforcement helps to solidify these positive changes, making them a stable part of one’s cognitive framework.


Correcting Neurological Changes

Grief can lead to significant changes in brain structure and function, contributing to emotional and cognitive difficulties. AGT™ addresses these neurological changes through its multifaceted approach:


  • Reducing Stress and Anxiety: The tapping process in AGT™ stimulates the production of calming neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety, creating a more balanced neurochemical environment.


  • Enhancing Neuroplasticity: Regular practice of AGT™ promotes neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This is crucial for recovering from the neurological impacts of grief as the brain begins to learn new, more positive, and helpful core beliefs. It breaks down the existing pathways that support irrational beliefs, reallocating its resources.


  • Improving Cognitive Function: By alleviating the emotional burden of grief, AGT™ allows the brain to redirect its resources toward cognitive functions. This can improve memory, attention, and decision-making abilities, helping individuals regain clarity and focus.


Improving DNA Expression

Grief's stress and emotional turmoil can influence gene expression, affecting overall health. AGT™ may help mitigate these effects through its stress-reducing techniques:


  • Reducing Epigenetic Stress Markers: By lowering stress levels, AGT™ can positively influence epigenetic markers that regulate gene expression. This creates a more favorable internal environment for healthy genetic functioning.


  • Supporting Immune Function: Chronic stress and grief can weaken the immune system. AGT™ helps to bolster immune function by reducing stress-induced inflammation, promoting better overall health and resilience. The Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques advanced by Adaptive Grief Tapping (AGT)™ have historically been shown to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that lends itself to inflammation, by about 33%.


  • Enhancing Longevity and Well-Being: By improving how genes are expressed, AGT™ can contribute to better physical health, potentially enhancing longevity and quality of life. This is particularly important for veterans and healthcare workers, whose demanding roles require robust physical and mental health.


A Path to Comprehensive Recovery

Adaptive Grief Tapping (AGT)™ provides a comprehensive approach to managing the multifaceted impacts of grief. By reshaping belief systems, correcting neurological changes, and improving DNA expression, AGT™ offers a holistic method for recovery and resilience. For veterans and healthcare workers, integrating AGT™ into their self-care routines can improve emotional balance, cognitive function, and overall health, empowering them to navigate life's challenges with strength and grace.


Conclusion


Grief is a profound and complex emotion that affects every aspect of our lives. Understanding how grief changes you is the first step toward navigating this challenging experience. Recognizing the non-linear nature of grief, acknowledging its long-term impact, and employing practical coping strategies can help us find a path toward recovery.


Remember, recovery is a journey, not a destination.


Would you like to learn more about how Adaptive Grief Tapping (AGT)™ can assist you in this journey? Sign up to receive a demonstration video in your email at no cost.


For those seeking a more personalized approach, sign up for a free consultation visit to learn how AGT™ can specifically address your needs.


I am here to support you every step of the way.

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